A short history of theories of intuitive theories

TitleA short history of theories of intuitive theories
Publication TypeBook Chapter
AuthorsMahr, J. B., and G. Csibra
EditorsGervain, J., G. Csibra, and K. Kovács
Book TitleA Life in Cognition: Studies in Cognitive Science in honor of Csaba Pléh
ISBN Number978-3-030-66175-5
Publisher linkhttps://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783030661748

Intuitive theories are sets of integrated concepts and causal laws that people adopt to comprehend, explain, and predict certain phenomena they encounter in the world. These theories are ‘intuitive’ because they are thought to drive our intui?ons about how the physical and biological world, the mental life of people, and the society we live in work, without mee?ng the standards of explicit scientific theorizing. The proposal that people adopt such theories has been around at least since the 1970s. However, how psychologists think about intuitive theories has been changing since they have been first proposed. In this chapter, we provide a short overview of the approaches to the function of intuitive theories and belief-forming systems more generally. While early characterization of intuitive theories emphasized their epistemic function, later attempts took an evolutionary view, claiming that they serve adaptive functions that are not always aligned with the goal of accurately tracking environmental states. A recent twist in this story is the proposal that shared intuitive theories may also serve social functions by providing a ‘theoretical common ground’ on which people interpret unobservable entities, such as memories, character traits, entitlements, and obligations. Such shared theories might be essential for social coordination via communication.

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Cognitive Development Center (CDC)
Department of Cognitive Science
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